Out of Africa

This project begins with a polyester skirt.

It was very large and the material was not pleated, which was good as the pleats can be difficult to get rid of (ask me how I know).  I kind of fell in love with the African-style print on the fabric even though there were several holes and half the hem was hanging off. This was £3.99 from the Save the Children shop in Whitby.

First thing to do was cut off the waistband and cut about a foot of material off the sides of both the fashion fabric and the lining and resew. This gave me two tubes that were more like the right size for the skirt part of my new dress. These I sewed together and then turned right sides out and made a seam about an inch below the join to form the casing for some new elastic. My plan was to adopt a zero-waste approach by reusing the original elastic but unfortunately it was ‘past its best’. Not forgetting to leave a gap in the seam to thread the elastic in was probably the hardest part of this whole project.

From the off-cuts of the fashion fabric I made two smaller tubes. These were going to form the bodice part of the dress.

I played around on the dress form with various twisted options but it was difficult to get the twists to stay in the right place once I took it off the form. I abandoned twisting after a while, realising it would have made the dress difficult to wear, and decided keeping it simple was probably the best option. The dress form was handy for getting the pieces in roughly the right place but I did try this on my body before I sewed, just to be sure. The tubes were sewed together about four or five inches from the inside of the tubes at both ends…..

….to make something like this:

After another session of trying this on to determine the right bodice length, both ends were sewn to the skirt part at the bottom of the elastic casing at what was to become the empire waistline.

A quick and simple gathering of the bodice at each shoulder gave a suitable look. Finishing touches were just hand sewing the hem, and on further testing, hand sewing the top of the elastic casing to the bodice to stop it flipping down.

I ventured out to the most jungle-like part of London to model this: King’s Cross. I met my good friend B for a cheeky after-work glass of wine. She took me to a fabulous roof garden bar which was certainly a hidden gem – you had to enter a lunchtime takeaway food place, go behind the counter, head through a door marked ‘toilets’ and up some narrow stairs to find it… the roof garden was really pleasant in the sunshine and practically empty, but as it was totally enclosed, there was no view at all. B commented that since we were in King’s Cross, that was probably a good thing.



  1. Helen Newton

    Just jumped over from the Refashion Co-op blog to say that I think you are really talented. I looked at all your posts there and think you really have talent and a truly creative imagination to see the “diamonds” in such “lumps of coal.” Going to check out everything you have here now. :)

    • charityshopchic

      Hello Helen and thanks for your kind comment. Yes, I try to see the potential in all cast off garments but the results aren’t always so great ;-) Thanks for reading!

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